Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Many Deaths are Caused by Medications?

The number of medication related deaths is hard to clarify for obvious reasons, including the fact that only a fraction of medical errors are reported.  How many doctors, hospitals, or drug companies want to admit their activities contribute to death statistics?  They have a strong incentive not to identify  drug events.  They have a strong incentive to avoid medical legal consequences.  You can believe the number we actually know about is considerably scaled down.

 There are 2 categories of drug hazards:  Errors in medication dosing
 & adverse drug reactions (ADR’S).  ADR’s cause more problems than medication  dosing errors. The information & statistics vary widely, though all are unsettling.  
The 1998 Journal of the American Medical Association reported  106.000 yearly deaths from drug side effects in American hospitals . These deaths  are only in hospitalized patients and represent  a small percentage of those at risk since most fatal medication errors occur at home.  It is easy for medication to not be perceived as the culprit unless an autopsy and toxicological studies are performed.  Without such clarification the cause of death can easily be listed as any other condition from which the patient may have suffered.
From 1998-2005, 467,809 known medication related deaths were reported to the FDA.  The FDA only finds out  about such instances when no cover up or avoidance of facts is possible.
The National Academics Office of News & Public Information reports medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans yearly.
Gary Null, reports in his book, Death by Medicine  that 783,936 Americans die yearly from conventional medicine mistakes. If this is true it would move medication related deaths to the number 1 cause of death in the United States.
Will these numbers increase with more people in the United States having access to health care? After all health care in the United States has been more about making drugs available to everyone, than it has been about education, proper diet, lifestyle changes,  exercise and alternative non drug methods of treatment. 
Can we expect better from the new Health care bill when we know the pharmaceutical industry controls congress?  For more information on the relationship between the government and drug companies, see the book The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It  by Marcia Angell M.D.

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